LYNDHURST, Ohio (WJW) – Police are asking tough questions after a bus driver for a local private school was arrested for drunk driving.
The incident began to unfold the evening of Sept. 23 when a concerned driver reported a yellow school bus was weaving between lanes on northbound I-271, then drove over the lane markers on the Cedar Road exit ramp and was bouncing off curbs.
“I’m in a car right now. I’m behind a school bus. I was on the freeway with the school bus. He was all over the road. Somebody needs to test this driver. Something is wrong,” the witness told the 911 dispatcher.
The witness reported that the bus then pulled into the bus parking lot at the Lyndhurst campus of Hawken School.
That’s where police caught up with the driver, 60-year-old Diene Ella Hines, and during field sobriety testing, concluded that Hines was drunk while behind the wheel of the bus.
Hines, who had earlier dropped off the students on her route, was arrested for OVI.
“The first concern is, number one, we have an OVI, so you have someone out there on the road putting everybody in danger,” Lyndhurst Police Chief Patrick Rhode told FOX 8. “The fact that the party was driving a school bus accentuates the problem infinitely because now we don’t know the time frame as to whether there were any students on the bus as the party was drinking at the time or not.”
Testing revealed that Hines’ blood alcohol content was .198, more than twice the legal limit.
Hawken Head of School D. Scott Looney issued the following statement:
“Hawken School has suspended one of its bus drivers after a serious incident and our internal investigation is proceeding. The driver was arrested last Friday evening, September 23, for operating a vehicle while impaired after the route was over and all students had been dropped off. Upon learning of this, Hawken immediately suspended the driver, who was informed they would never drive for Hawken School again. We are continuing our internal investigation and cooperating with law enforcement. This driver has been with us for over 20 years with no previous incidents. The driver passed all background checks throughout the years, has continued to pass all regular checks including our program for random drug and alcohol testing, and has been in good standing on all state requirements with the Department of Education and the Ohio Association for Pupil Transportation, which oversees testing for transportation drivers. The safety of the students placed in our care is paramount, and one of the critical areas is the transportation services we provide. We will continue to be vigilant in conducting background checks and regular testing of all drivers and when a problem surfaces, we will act quickly and decisively.”
Investigators are now trying to determine when, where and for how long Hines had allegedly been drinking on the day she was arrested.
“In my career, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a school bus driver arrested for driving under the influence. That spans well over 25 years, but absolutely it is a concern because we entrust our kids and our family members to the care and custody of that bus driver, of that school system and we trust that they’re going to do the right thing to take care of our precious cargo,” said Chief Rhode.
During her arraignment on Sept. 27, Diene Hines entered a plea of not guilty and was released on a personal bond.